Travel & Holidays

VisitEngland: accessible city breaks

Following on from VisitEngland’s launch of its Access for All campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of accessible places across England, it has created three guides with a wealth of advice and information on accessible travel. Covering seven areas – Brighton, Margate, Birmingham, Lincoln, Nottingham, Northumberland, and the Peak District – 56 businesses across these locations have assisted in compiling the guides to help you choose your next holiday destination.

In a three-part series, VisitEngland shares its guides with Disability Horizons readers. This week find out about accessible city breaks.


Small, yet perfectly formed, Lincoln packs serious cultural kudos into its ancient heart. This historic city captivates first with its web of medieval streets, magnificent eleventh century cathedral and Norman castle. Yes, it’s home to one of only four surviving copies of 1215 Magna Carta; sheer historic gold; but scratch below the surface and you’ll also find a vibrant city in touch with its cool, cosmopolitan side.

The Steep Hill area is lined with quirky vintage boutiques, cafés, restaurants and chocolate shops. And despite its inclines, the city is easy to get around thanks to the Steep Hill Shuttle; a wheelchair accessible bus that stops at 13 locations across Lincoln. At the Brayford Waterfront, the atmosphere is more lively; bars, restaurants, luxury hotels and a multiplex cinema fringe this picturesque inland harbour. And, as a city with many cobbled streets, accessible transport is high up on the agenda here. Wheelchair and scooter loan is available from Shopmobility in Lincoln Bus Station, and accessible taxis from Marks Passenger Services.

The Cultural Quarter is where the city’s artistic scene ignites. Its eclectic mix of theatres, museums, galleries, music, cuisine, bars and café culture adds a fresh, directional dimension to a break here. The Collection and Usher Gallery is the hub of the Cultural Quarter’s action. Fusing an award-winning archaeology museum and the region’s premier art gallery in the same location is a genius move. At The Collection design your own Roman mosaic, immerse yourself in the Stone, Bronze or Iron Age or learn how archaeological treasures weather.

Lincon City

After all that ancient-inspired activity, take time out at Stokes Collection Café. It’s a restorative space serving a delicious menu of speciality teas, coffees and homemade dishes using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Sunday brunches are excellent – standout dishes include the ‘Sweet Sunday’ – an indulgent blueberry and white chocolate crêpe – and the Latino Benedict – eggs Benedict with a fiery chorizo and salsa kick.

At the Usher Gallery accessibility is a high priority. You enter through a wheelchair-friendly glass pavilion and a new, wider lift enables access to the upper galleries. The space is home to fine and decorative art and horology (clocks and watches). Outside in the Temple Gardens admire the elegant neoclassical sculptures and the large commanding bronze known as A Mighty Blow for Freedom.

Arguably the most iconic of Lincoln’s landmarks is the Cathedral and it’s neighbouring castle. The imposing Gothic cathedral towers over Lincoln like a medieval skyscraper. When the cathedral tower was constructed between the 13th & 14th centuries, it claimed the crown as the tallest building in the world, stealing the mantle from the Great Pyramid of Giza. Take a tour around the cathedral to learn more about the building’s impressive history and its connection to Magna Carta. Around 85% is accessible by wheelchair.

The Museum of Lincolnshire Life charts the social history of the county from 1750 to today. The Industry and Agricultural Gallery exhibits farming machinery and a first-world-war tank. And at Commercial Row you can step into shops from bygone eras such as  the chemist or post office. 90%  of the museum is on ground level.

Intersperse that history and culture with some natural beauty at the Natural World Centre in Whisby. Set in the lush expanses of a nature park, the centre hosts inspiring exhibitions and creative events for all the family. Little Darters Adventure play area is an activity hotbed for the kids. Or hire a mobility scooter yourself and explore the woodland trails in Whisby Nature Reserve.


The Robin Hood green tight-clad clichés may have stuck, but Nottingham is so much more than a city with a charitable hero and a multi million pound nineties movie to its name. Visit and you’ll find a vibrant county capital with cosmopolitan city ambitions. Today Nottingham’s buoyant independent music, cinema and performing arts scene gives it a hip undercurrent. Fuse that with award-winning heritage, medieval caves, independent shopping, hidden cocktail bars and kicking nightlife and you can see why this city’s got the cool kids talking.

The art and architecture are pretty up there too; with classical, modern and landscape art showcased across the city. And fine Tudor, Regency and Victorian façades sit alongside the asymmetric industrial lines of Nottingham Contemporary. It’s an eclectic cultural hub and one that’s fully committed to keeping its colourful sites open to all. As the proud owner of the first accessible tramway in the country, Nottingham is working hard on providing visitors with improved accessibility.


Designed by award-winning architects Caruso St John, Nottingham Contemporary is one of the country’s largest contemporary arts centres at over 3,000 square metres. Inspiration for the building’s unique design came from the surrounding 19th century lace markets. Home to four galleries, a performance and film space, learning studio, shop and a café bar, its changing programme of exhibitions is sure to capture your imagination.

Their Access to Art for All scheme provides artist led workshops and free gallery tours for a wide range of groups with additional support needs. The New Art Exchange is a cutting edge visual arts space that celebrates the region’s cultural diversity. And it certainly does it well. With an eclectic variety of art exhibitions, lectures, film-screenings, live music, dance and theatre, it’s clearly serious about shining a light on all art forms. All five floors can be accessed by lift. A hearing loop system operates in the reception and performance spaces.

The Galleries of Justice Museum is another example of Nottingham’s offbeat identity. The unique concept fuses history with live performance. Based at the city’s old courthouse and gaol it brings exhibits and stories around crime and punishment to life. Walk in the shoes of one of the city’s outlaws, or watch the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham put Robin Hood on trial. 90% of the exhibits at this Grade II listed building are accessible for wheelchair users, with virtual reality presentations available for harder to reach areas.

The city’s drinking and dining scene is also flourishing. At Sinatra Bar and Restaurant the emphasis is on seasonal fresh ingredients, cocktails and fine wines. A PreTheatre or Express Lunch menu is available and every Thursday they host live music in the bar. Wheelchair access is provided at the entrance and an accessible toilet is located on the same level. Menus are available in large print format.

If you fancy curling up over a languid lunch in a great English pub environment, The Ned Ludd is the place to do it. This bar and restaurant showcases 14 craft beers and four real ales on draught, served alongside local artisan food. The front doors open out wide to accommodate wheelchair users, a hearing loop is located behind the bar and large print menus are available.

Sobar takes the conventional bar concept and turns it on its head. This alcohol free, café/bar venue puts food, virgin drinks and mocktails at the heart of its business and sets them to the backdrop of original entertainment. Developed by Double Impact, the Nottingham based drug and alcohol recovery charity, with the support of  a grant from the Big Lottery Fund,  this venue is inclusive and friendly. A portable access ramp is available, a hearing loop is installed and there is an accessible toilet with handrails.


The culmination of huge investment and regeneration over the last decade is propelling this industrial city into an exciting cultural stratosphere. And, as Britain’s second largest city, there’s no denying its cosmopolitan credentials.

If one building sums up the city’s transformation perfectly it’s the award-winning Library of Birmingham; setting the cultural tempo with its edgy design. The metamorphosis of New Street station followed; Grand Central is the luxury shopping destination, housed in the mezzanine level. There’s a sleek new look at high-end shopping destination The Mailbox, too.

The city’s cultural and sporting life is vibrant. As well as a host of outstanding museums and galleries, Birmingham has four Michelinstarred restaurants alongside a profusion of secret cocktail hangouts and waterside bars. Accessibility is high up on the agenda here, too. Mobility scooters are available from Shopmobility in the Bullring, and Changing Places accessible toilets are installed at The Library of Birmingham and Cadbury World in Bournville. has a number of photo journeys online; detailing the best access  routes in and around attractions.  If you need someone to accompany you for a short trip when you arrive here, the city’s Southside wardens are an excellent option.


Alfie Birds and The Oobleck is  a unique hangout. With a tagline that reads “gourmet eats and beats”,  you get the gist. This is a kick-back and chill space perfect for meeting friends and enjoying world craft beers, ciders, gourmet burgers and fresh stonebaked pizzas. The Oobleck is a 350 people capacity live music venue, right next door. The main bar and pizzeria have level access and the Oobleck has a short entrance ramp.  A large print menu is available in the restaurant.

Café Opus is another of Birmingham’s interesting, independent food destinations. Tucked away on the ground floor of the magnificent Ikon Gallery in Brindleyplace, it’s fuelled by a passion for market fresh ingredients. The all day brunches are of exceptional quality, if you fancy something healthier try the Café Opus Club Salad or the Halloumi Burger. Wheelchair access is provided throughout.

Sports-lovers should put a trip to Aston Villa Football Club on their trip hit list. Soak up the atmosphere and tread the footsteps of Villa’s finest star players of past and present. The stadium tours are really memorable and give you an insight into the club’s history and a chance to get up close with the European Cup, FA Cup and League Cup. Tour guides will tailor the tour to suit your needs and there is a platform lift for wheelchair users to give access to the football pitch area.

At Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum you can travel back in time to experience the city’s industrial past in the morning. Then spend the afternoon exploring futuristic inventions and space travel under the very same roof. The outdoor Science Garden is packed full of giant, interactive exhibits. Centrally-located accessible lifts operate to all floor
and can accommodate wheelchairs.

If you fancy watching some live opera, ballet, a west end show, some stand-up or dance then head to the Birmingham Hippodrome. This not-for-profit registered charity is home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, DanceXchange and plays host to the Welsh National Opera’s entire repertoire. Accessibility is a subject close to the charity’s heart. Their own Access Forum Group actively listens and reacts to the needs of all disabled visitors.

Access for All campaign – what it means for you

Under VisitEngland’s Access for All campaign key staff members have completed disability awareness training. Accommodation and attractions have been audited by a professional access advisor and many have received a mystery visit from guests with accessibility requirements. All venues listed display full access statements on their websites.

Go to VisitEngland’s Access for All website to download this full costal breaks guide, which includes key contact details and suggested accommodation.

You can also visit our new travel site, Accomable, to find accessible accommodation not just in the UK, but across the world.

Want to get in touch with Disability Horizons? You can message us on Facebook, tweet us @DHorizons, email us at or leave your comments below.

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